The last time I watched something with this kind of grin on my face was the end of the Lego Batman movie. My only complaint is that Duet wasn’t longer.
I remember the hype surrounding the introduction of Music Meister so many months ago. Everyone and their grandmother expected Neil Patrick Harris would reprise his role from the Batman cartoon The Brave and the Bold. NPH is both a television and Broadway star and Music Meister is easily one of the most beloved episodes from that series. And having not seen Hedwig and The Angry Inch during Criss’ tenure or been a huge fan of Glee, I didn’t really have an idea for how Darren would fare as the villainous vocalist.
He was a champ. Above the singing and dancing, Criss brought a very necessary charisma to the role. You see, Flash villains are known for their flair. Their outfits are over the top. Their names are silly. They chew scenery like the Matter-Eater Lad. Darren Criss’ Meister fit that bill as well as heavy hitters like Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold or Mark Hamill’s Trickster. I guarantee his return will be THE most anticipated episode of next season; even more so than the Grodd episode and even the crossover.
For me, the number that made the episode was the company’s rendition of Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’. Everyone involved was on point. Darren did an excellent job of anchoring the number; not to say that Carlos Valdez, John Barrowman and Jeremy Jordan weren’t also great. Jordan was the biggest surprise for me. The man can belt. And I didn’t know I needed to see Malcolm Merlyn singing while spinning dancers around on either arm, but thank Savitar someone thought to add him into the cast.
And on a purely technical level, ‘Put a Little love in Your Heart’ was a triumph. It is so hard to film a musical with so many moving pieces. You have Jordan on the piano, the ensemble executing some pretty solid choreography, Valdes and Barrowman moving through the ensemble, Criss engaging everyone, and then Barry and Kara reacting. When you consider not only how well it was stitched together but how dynamic the finished product felt, you really get an idea of why this is going to go down as at least a top five Flash episode.
Don’t get me wrong. The rest of the music was excellent. Melissa Benoist’s ‘Moon River’ was so good it felt unfair that the rest of the cast had to follow it. Barrowman, Jesse L Martin, and Victor Garber’s trio about fatherhood was adorable. Barry’s love song to Iris was sweet and it was only midway through the song that I realized he was singing about running. I’m an idiot. And the ‘Super Friends’ number walked a tight line between too referential and too generic without falling into either canyon while also being quite catchy. And who knew Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist were such good tap dancers. If either of you are reading this, we get it. You are better than us. You don’t need to show off.
Also, apparently ‘Super Friend’ was the one penned by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom and the requisite amount of clones she must have created to give her time to write songs like this while also pulling triple duty on her own show. Very cool. I could see her stepping in as an evil Music Meister twin next time around. Food for thought, Berlanti.
Now, let’s talk about the characterization, and by that I mean the very spotty accents and goofy costumes. I don’t mind it! In fact, I kind of liked the fact that half of the cast sounded like Brooklyn newsies and half didn’t and the half that did didn’t even always sound like that all of the time. It teaches an important lesson. When the audience is enjoying themselves, they are willing to let so much fly by or even embrace the cheesiness. Parodies afford you certain luxuries in that area but I also don’t think you also can’t apply that idea to regular Flash or Supergirl episodes in the future. I’m going to point to Hamill’s Trickster again as a great example of how it can work wonders on “serious” episodes.
Also, it seems like the Music Meister is some sort of universal super-being from a different dimension which means he coooooooooould be Mr. Mxyzptlk, which would be great. For those who aren’t familiar Mxyzptlk is a sort of trickster from the fifth dimension that shows up and messes with Superman from time to time. In the animated series, he was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, so naturally people love him. It would give him more of a context to just drop in whenever he wants, musical or not. And if his motives don’t line up with Mxy, maybe he is closer to a Bat-Mite type character, a fan of the hero who wants to help them succeed. The whole “lesson” element sure points to that.
And let’s not forget about Cisco, Wally, and Jon working together to fight Music Meister. That was great. So great I am willing to ignore the fact that Meister taking their powers doesn’t really make any sense since he seemingly has the power to bend reality. But who cares? They gelled pretty well, proving that CW can pretty much do whatever they want with respect to potential crossovers. I myself would prefer some team-ups. Maybe see how Frost, Citizen Steel, and Speedy do against a random villain. That would help to give the characters some more depth and really flesh out the connections within the universe.
Duet also furthers my opinion that Cisco is the most powerful character on the show. Not only can he vibe across town, between universes, and forward in time. He can also vibe to dreams/hallucinations/comas. Even characters within the show don’t even question it. In a week or two, I imagine Cisco will be vibing into the television, Blue’s Clues style.
Duet worked better than maybe every other episode this season because of the looks on everyone’s faces. The cast genuinely seemed to be having fun. And why wouldn’t they be? So many Flash/Supergirl/Arrow actors were also on Glee or Smash or even Broadway. This is something they love to do and watching someone do what they love never stops being fun.